The Colts Prospect Interviews are still going strong after the Combine. Today’s player to interview is Utah State running back Darwin Thompson. We will be looking at the background of this change of pace running back along with how he fits the Colts and some film clips of his skillset. The interview will be towards the bottom of the page as we talk about his time in JUCO, his insane workout habits, and what he brings to an NFL team.
5’8” 200 pounds
153 carries for 1,044 yards with a yards per carry of 6.8 and 14 touchdowns. 23 catches for 351 yards and 2 touchdowns in one year at Utah State.
Why He Fits:
The Colts have three solid young running backs in Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins. They could use a guy to complete that rotation and provide depth. One way they could use that 4th spot is by adding a power runner and another is adding a dynamic, pass catching back behind Hines. Why not both though? Thompson has the speed and athleticism to be a game changer but also is big and scrappy enough to fight for extra yards in the short game. He would provide valuable depth while also adding an extra dynamic out of the backfield. He excels at catching passes which is key in Frank Reich’s offensive system.
Notice the game breaking ability from Thompson. He bursts through open lanes with ease and then can hit that second gear past defensive backs for big touchdowns.
Watching Dax Raymond & I see this dude torching so I look 'em up.. turns out it's Darwin Thompson, who declared for the draft.— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) February 4, 2019
- JUCO transfer (Northeastern Oklahoma A&M)
- 1-year FBS production (16 TDs, 1,395 scrimmage yards)
- Second-Team All-Mountain West selection pic.twitter.com/swJKwRjidx
Evaluators always talk about “contact balance” but what is it? The ability to absorb hits and stay on your feet. Thompson has excellent contact balance and grinds out every yard.
Darwin Thompson is such a blast. Contact balance for a RB that small is wild pic.twitter.com/gIuFhRmqdt— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) January 11, 2019
He is also a weapon in the receiving game. He can turn simple screen passes into big gains (Colts certainly need more help on screen passes).
Utah State RB Darwin Thompson has declared for the draft. He hauled in 23 receptions for 2 scores in 2018. Electric playmaker; thinking we’ll see Tarik Cohen comparisons along the way. pic.twitter.com/5UTdEP2sAf— ryan (@StillRyanFive) December 28, 2018
ZH: How does a potential NFL prospect like yourself get no college offers out of high school?
DT: I was an average student, I was an average player. No one was going to take a chance on a kid that’s not that great on the field with average grades. I really held myself back in high school and that’s the message that I’ll preach to this day to the kids still in high school. Take care of your grades and make sure you are great on and off the field, it goes hand in hand. You can’t be great on the field without doing what is right in the classroom.
ZH: So you attended Northeastern Oklahoma A&M out of high school, what was your time like there?
DT: Humbling. It was a humbling experience since the day I walked on campus. I had to grow up fast, I was on my own. There was no more pointing fingers, I’ll get myself out of JUCO just like I put myself in that situation. I met some of my best friends for the rest of my life and they are my brothers. We all struggled together, living in that same dorm room, taking showers in the same room like we were brothers from the day we met. Definitely a humbling experience that gave me time to grow mentally and physically and I’ll be forever grateful for that.
ZH: After one season at Utah State, you decided to turn Pro. What went into that decision?
DT: With me playing JUCO ball and then going onto Utah State, I felt like I was well prepared. I played with one of the best JUCO coaches in the Nation and playing with Utah State that ended up being one of the best teams in the Nation. I felt like I was well prepared for the next level mentally and physically and God just put it on my heart. I talked with my parents and talked with my coaches— who ended up going to Texas Tech— and I felt like that was the best decision for me going forward.
ZH: At Utah State, you guys ran a fast, high tempo offense. How was that system for you as the main bellcow? Do you think it has better prepared you for the speed of the NFL game?
DT: Definitely. Being able to be in sync, play after play taking hand-offs and taking the ball, it just gave me a chance to show how explosive I really am as a ball carrier and just as a playmaker within itself. Running lanes, catching the ball just gave me an opportunity to show off my game.
ZH: You were one of the biggest—if not the biggest— NFL Combine snubs this year. Were you disappointed when you found out you weren’t attending the event?
DT: I mean, I was definitely a little disappointed but at the end of the day, I preach God’s plan. There is a reason I wasn’t there and I just get the opportunity to showcase myself at Pro Day. We’ve seen the outcome of the RBs that were there and there was a select few that showed out in a sense. I’m just glad that I get an opportunity to showcase my talent at my Pro Day and take it for what it is.
ZH: I’ve heard you are an insane athlete with some crazy workouts. Have you always had that type of work ethic in the weight room or is that more of a recent thing?
DT: I’ve always been more athletic than I was an actual football player. I was always an athlete and then I started perfecting my craft once I got to the JUCO level and became more of a running back while studying the game. Beforehand I was just an athlete out there playing football and now I’ve started perfecting my craft. I’ve always been strong, fast, able to jump.. I’ve just always been an athlete.
ZH: Looking at your film and the contact balance is the first thing that pops. Is that just an innate ability that some guys have or is there a way that you have worked to get where you are with that?
DT: I think I really worked on that and perfected that and I think that started in the weight room for me. Some people say I’m small but I believe that I’m just short. I’m not small. I’m 201. I squat and bench more than o-linemen do. I power clean more than o-linemen do. I can be the fastest man on the field as well. Really the contact balance starts in the weight room for me and I read something on Twitter once that changed my game forever. It was like my sophomore year of high school and it said “What makes a great back is his desire to go score.” That is how I walk into every game, I won’t let one man take me down.
ZH: Love it man. Just while you brought it up, what is your squat, bench, and power clean that is better than o-linemen?
DT: To be honest I don’t know my max, I surprise myself every time I go out to the weight room, but the last time that I did squat, I squatted 695 which I probably could have done four reps. I benched 405. I recently benched 225 pounds 29 times. The last time I power cleaned was 385.
ZH: A big part of playing RB is vision. Vision is what separates good running backs from great running backs in the NFL. How does a running back get great vision? Is it from film study or just, again, a natural ability?
DT: Definitely a film study. I feel like if you can see yourself before the game has started making certain moves and know the defenses tendencies, you’ll be able to seek out error in the defense. To me ultimately that is called vision, seeking error in the defenses. I feel like that is a film study thing. It can be created just like in today’s game. What LeVeon Bell is doing now, they used to call it dancing in the backfield back in the day. Now he’s getting paid millions of dollars to do something that they’ve been critiquing on and frowned upon and now he’s getting paid million of dollars to be dancing and making money.
ZH: Pass catching and pass blocking are so vital for NFL backs nowadays. Are those two areas that you would say you are strong in?
DT: My pass blocking can definitely be fine tuned just like anything else in my game but I definitely want to be taught the correct technique. That’s not something that running backs really just focus on because we block maybe three times, four times a game but just to be able to do that to the best of my ability like running or catching the ball. I wanna be 99 percent as a running back. I wanna be 99 overall and to do that, I wanna be a great pass blocker. I’m an athlete so me catching the ball is just natural. I can play receiver or running back, I’m an athlete. I don’t claim to be a running back. I can do it all.
ZH: Who in the NFL do you compare yourself most to/ model your game after?
DT: I really model my game after a couple running backs. I like Marshawn Lynch and the way he runs the ball with aggression. Jerick McKinnon who is a slasher and really that is who I could see myself mold my game after most. Ameer Abdullah, Ray Rice, I used to watch Adrian Peterson when I was younger and thought I would be 6’2” but it didn’t end up going that way (laughs). I like to try and focus on guys around my height. Ameer Abdullah, Jerick McKinnon, Marshawn Lynch are some of the main guys I study. I watch Barry Sanders a lot too.
ZH: Final question for you man. What would it be like to (potentially) be able to play alongside a QB like Andrew Luck and run behind a dominant offensive line like the Colts have?
DT: That would be crazy. I mean just look at Marlon Mack. He dominated just as soon as he got into the league and there was doubt against him. No one thought Marlon Mack would step up and be so dominant for the Colts but to be able to get behind that O-line and see what he’s doing, I can only imagine what I could be able to do behind that line for my own sake and my own confidence behind that line, I would be able to kill the game and should be one-on-one with safeties and linebackers and do what I do best. (Regarding) Andrew Luck, I could only imagine playing alongside one of the next great quarterbacks in the NFL. They are another running back away from making a run at the playoffs and the Super Bowl.